Questioner: I seem to have suffered a great deal all my life, not physically, but through death and loneliness and the utter futility of my existence. I had a son whom I greatly loved. He died in an accident. My wife left me, and that caused a great deal of pain. I suppose I am like thousands of other middle-class people with sufficient money and a steady job. I’m not complaining of my circumstances but I want to understand what sorrow means, why it comes at all. One has been told that wisdom comes through sorrow, but I have found quite the contrary.
Krishnamurti: I wonder what you have learnt from suffering? Have you learnt anything at all? What has sorrow taught you?
Questioner: It has certainly taught me never to be attached to people, and a certain bitterness, a certain aloofness and not to allow my feelings to run away with me. It has taught me to be very careful not to get hurt again.
Krishnamurti: So, as you say, it hasn’t taught you wisdom; on the contrary it has made you more cunning, more insensitive. Does sorrow teach one anything at all except the obvious self-protective reactions?
Questioner: I have always accepted suffering as part of my life, but I feel now, somehow, that I’d like to be free of it, free of all the tawdry bitterness and indifference without again going through all the pain of attachment. My life is so pointless and empty, utterly self-enclosed and insignificant. It’s a life of mediocrity, and perhaps that mediocrity is the greatest sorrow of all.
Krishnamurti: There is the personal sorrow and the sorrow of the world. There is the sorrow of ignorance and the sorrow of time. This ignorance is the lack of knowing oneself, and the sorrow of time is the deception that time can cure, heal and change. Most people are caught in that deception and either worship sorrow or explain it away. But in either case it continues, and one never asks oneself if it can come to an end.
Questioner: But I am asking now if it can come to an end, and how? How am I to end it? I understand that it’s no good running away from it, or resisting it with bitterness and cynicism. What am I to do to end the grief which I have carried for so long?
Krishnamurti: Self-pity is one of the elements of sorrow. Another element is being attached to someone and encouraging or fostering his attachment to you. Sorrow is not only there when attachment fails you but its seed is in the very beginning of that attachment. In all this the trouble is the utter lack of knowing oneself. Knowing oneself is the ending of sorrow. We are afraid to know ourselves because we have divided ourselves into the good and the bad, the evil and the noble, the pure and the impure. The good is always judging the bad, and these fragments are at war with each other.
This war is sorrow. To end sorrow is to see the fact and not invent its opposite, for the opposites contain each other. Walking in this corridor of opposites is sorrow. This fragmentation of life into the high and the low, the noble and the ignoble, God and the Devil, breeds conflict and pain. When there is sorrow, there is no love. Love and sorrow cannot live together.
Questioner: Ah! But love can inflict sorrow on another. I may love another and yet bring him sorrow.
Krishnamurti: Do you bring it, if you love, or does he? If another is attached to you, with or without encouragement, and you turn away from him and he suffers, is it you or he who has brought about his suffering?
Questioner: You mean I am not responsible for someone else’s sorrow, even if it is on my account? How does sorrow ever end then?
Krishnamurti: As we have said, it is only in knowing oneself completely that sorrow ends. Do you know yourself at a glance, or hope to after a long analysis? Through analysis you cannot know yourself. You can only know yourself without accumulation, in relationship, from moment to moment. This means that one must be aware, without any choice, of what is actually taking place. It means to see oneself as one is, without the opposite, the ideal, without the knowledge of what one has been. If you look at yourself with the eyes of resentment or rancour then what you see is coloured by the past. The shedding of the past all the time when you see yourself is the freedom from the past. Sorrow ends only when there is the light of understanding, and this light is not lit by one experience or by one flash of understanding; this understanding is lighting itself all the time. Nobody can give it to you – no book, trick, teacher or saviour. The understanding of yourself is the ending of sorrow.
[Excerpt From “Urgency of Change”]